Quit the Bottle to Build Happy Bones

Exercise and not drinking can help bones stay strong

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Beer and wine happy hours can often be so satisfying. But it may be best to leave the bottle alone when helping bones grow and stay strong.

Avoiding alcohol combined with regular exercise can help men build the bones lost from alcoholism, a new study has found.

As physical activity increased, bone density increased as well, but whether one directly causes the other is not exactly known.

The researchers also found that the imbalance between bone formation and allowing it absorb becomes more balanced during abstinence from alcohol.

"Drink alcohol in moderation."

In the study, led by Peter Malik, MD, a senior scientist and physician at the Medical University Innsbruck in Austria, 53 male alcohol-abstinent patients between the ages of 21 to 50 were examined at an alcohol rehabilitation clinic.

Each patient had their blood drawn before the start of the study and eight weeks after treatment. Researchers checked for calcium, sex hormones and various other minerals.

Participants were also given a questionnaire to find their level of physical activity before being treated.

They found that 15.1 percent of men had low bone mineral density in their lumbar spine, in almost 6 percent for the femoral neck, and about 2 percent in the hips.

The amount of osteocalcin, which is a protein in the bones and teeth, increased over the eight-week period as men continued to avoid alcohol.

This means that there was a "higher rate of bone formation during continuous abstinence," the authors said in their study.

The researchers also found that the initial imbalance between bone formation and resorption, or allowing it to absorb in the body again, becomes more balanced during abstinence.

As formation makes new bones, resorption destroys, and the balance of the two is important.

As physical activity increased, bone density increased as well, but whether one directly causes the other is not exactly known.

The study also points to the need to consider reductions in bone mass or decrease in muscle size during rehabilitation, the authors note.

"The study shows that during the first weeks of abstinence the bone metabolism is slowly improving but not fully recovered," said Sergei Mechtcheriakov, MD, co-author of the study.

"Recovery after long-term alcoholism takes months and probably years. We need better understanding of these processes in order to be able to conceive better rehabilitation programs." 

The study was published online Sept. 14 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 14, 2012
Last Updated:
September 18, 2012